Black Friday – is it worth it?

Black Friday is an import from the United States. It started out as a way of filling the Thanksgiving weekend. But, thanks to the internet, Black Friday is now over here. Add to that the number of major brands and stores that are US-based, sourced or financed, and it is not hard to see why its arrival over here has been so rapid and so complete.

But is it worth it?

Traditionally, in the UK, our sales start on Boxing Day and run into the New Year. That has experienced a degree of creep over the past few years, with some sales now starting on Christmas Eve. That seems a little counterproductive to me, because that means that the disorganised and/or lazy who leave everything to the last second, could catch a bargain they really don’t deserve. And also means that the retailer misses out on the potentially lucrative last minute rush.

But we are still in November. So why discount today? As Chris Choi points out (here), retailers could be shooting themselves in the foot by lowering price expectations before the sales “proper” kick in.

Online, websites are crashing at a rate of knots. It took me over an hour to get two pairs of jeans into a basket and pay for them, although the Paypal pages were not in the least bit taxed (as they are designed to cope with Black Friday in USA-style numbers, not UK ones). Some sites have keeled over entirely with error pages already drafted to cover them while they scramble to catch up.

Is it safe to go to the store in person? Well, so far today, there have been three arrests in the Manchester area alone for assault, and even by lunchtime, there were rather chilling videos circulating of fights, conflicts and apparent utter desperation. One woman was injured by a falling television. The Police have been called to supermarkets and stores all over the country. At Asda in Wembley, people were knocked to the ground in the hysterical stampede.

And remember, most of this started at midnight, not this morning. It’s already been going on for several hours.

The BBC quotes Jamie Hook who was buying food at Tesco in Stretford on Thursday night when he said “the screaming started”.

“I looked at the massive crowd to see people climbing over shelves and displays, staff running for cover, fights breaking out, stock flying through air, people breaking through carrying televisions – and this was before the sale had even started,” he said.  The lady on the till I was at was in tears, terrified of it all, but she was under orders to close her till to go and help crowd control.”

This is not normal behaviour. Stampedes, threats and assaults for the sake of a slightly cheaper television? What have we become?

And bear in mind that, as Chris Choi points out, there may be better bargains to be had in the New Year sales anyway!

Edit: The UK now has its first entry on the Black Friday Death Count website which lists all injuries and deaths caused by Black Friday hysteria. Should we be proud of this? Probably not. How can any television, no matter how cheap, be worth killing or hurting someone else for?

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Poppies

It has been a while since I have felt the urge to rant on any topic with sufficient passion to stop all the other things I should be doing in order to do so.  But this is about poppies.

Over the past few days, I have been shocked and saddened in equal measure by the cavalier arrogance of the astonishingly high number of people who do not wear a poppy for remembrance.

In addition, there has been a survey done that says that 1 in 6 people REFUSES to wear a poppy. Not can’t be bothered, not doesn’t see the need, REFUSES. The survey by Viewsbank can be found here: survey summary.

Now, I have also seen a World War One veteran bemoaning what he (and apparently many others) see as a politicisation of the poppy. He has made himself quite famous over the past twelve months, which I suppose can’t hurt, financially. His most recent tweet on the subject can be found here.

I have also seen an article from a Chelsea Pensioner saying that television presenters who refuse to wear a poppy should be fired. Which you can read here.

So there are differing views on the whys and wherefores of wearing a poppy. Here, you get my ha’penorth.

Wearing a poppy is not a political gesture. It condones no party, it espouses no ideology. It is an act of remembrance. A chance to think about all those who gave their lives in the wars this country has participated in, both 100 years ago, and more recently.

But this is part of the problem. People who like to think of themselves as pacifists say that to wear a poppy is somehow condoning the concept of war, and that wearing a white poppy is therefore the pacifist choice. It shows you remember without the acceptance of war, apparently.

Their excuse is that the money raised these days goes not only to help Chelsea Pensioners and other aged veterans of the two global conflicts of the 20th century, but also assists with rehab and housing for injured soldiers coming home from current and more recent conflicts. Thus you are supporting soldiers and the concept of an organised army if you wear one.

This is, if you will pardon the pun, poppycock.

Those 888,246 ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London, and the one on my lapel, do not represent professional soldiers, carefully trained in skills and strategy, (relatively) well-paid and (hopefully) well-cared for later. They represent ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives who were CONSCRIPTED and sent to their deaths with no training, no protection, no chance of survival and, if they faltered in any way in that march to their clearly visible upcoming death, were just as likely to be shot by their own side.

Do you know why they wore gas masks in the trenches? Do you understand how chlorine and mustard gas work? Allow me to explain. Essentially, they irritate the lining of the lungs, causing both excruciating pain and a protective reaction to occur, whereby the body produces liquid to protect the lung lining. If you get gassed, you DROWN. Slowly. Someone who last week delivered your bread or taught your child in school.

There is nothing glorifying of anyone or anything in saying we remember the lost generation who gave their lives, frequently for no gain or benefit to either side whatsoever, in the most unmitigated random slaughter* in living memory. They were not professional soldiers, although they died in a uniform, so the State takes care of their graves (if they have one), their widows and their comrades who survived.

I, personally, have nothing but disdain for anyone who refuses to wear a poppy. It shows a woeful ignorance of the First World War, and the people who fought and died in it, and I don’t want to call people who enjoy being ignorant my friends.

*Before anyone objects, the Final Solution was not random. It was extremely well-organised.